SINGLE dad Brandon Woodhouse sacrificed time with his kids to work seven days a week to help get on the property ladder.
He also sold unwanted clutter around his home, including a kayak, a dumbbell set and old clothes and shoes, to help raise the cash.
The self-employed house builder, 47, had been saving for two and a half years when the coronavirus crisis struck, stalling his hopes of buying a house.
Brandon, who has a 18-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, had initially been told by a mortgage advisor that a 5% deposit of £9,000 would be enough to get a £175,000 mortgage.
But when Covid-19 locked down the country his bank raised the goalposts to 10%, and the builder suddenly found himself without work due to the pandemic.
When lockdown restrictions later eased, Brandon was dealt another blow as the estimated mortgage repayments had now risen to an unaffordable amount.
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But by working seven days a week for three months this year, selling dozens of household items on Facebook and continuing to live frugally, Brandon scraped the 15% deposit together.
In October, Brandon finally received the keys to his £175,000 two bedroom semi-detached house in Desborough, Northamptonshire.
We caught up with Brandon for เดอะ ซัน’s My First Home series as he prepared to move into his new home.
Tell me about your home
It was built 15 years ago and is in good condition. It was all carpeted and they left me the blinds.
It is over three floors but the ground floor is just stairs up to the house as there is an archway underneath to the parking at the back.
The first floor is an open plan living room dining room which is a decent size.
There is a small fitted kitchen which has a cooker and hob and a toilet on the same floor. This is painted bright pink so I am planning to redecorate it.
Then on the top floor there are two double bedrooms, one with an ensuite with a shower, and then a tiled family bathroom with a bath.
It has a small courtyard garden covered with slabs and a garage.
How much did you pay for it?
I paid £175,000 for the house, putting down a 15% deposit of £26,250.
I took out a five year fixed rate mortgage at around 2% interest. Since I am 47 and you can typically only take a mortgage out until you are 70, it is a 22 year mortgage.
Why did you decide to buy a property?
When I split up from my wife several years ago I was living in her house, so she kept it. I have rented ever since.
Three years ago I split up from my then girlfriend and I realised that I needed to buy somewhere.
Rent is dead money. I got to the stage of thinking “if I don’t do it this year, I never will”.
I realised it would only get more and more expensive because of my age. I would have to pay off a mortgage by the time I was 70 so I had just over 20 years to do it.
How did you save for the deposit?
I had been putting money aside for two and a half years, about £400 a month from my earnings.
At the start of the year I was told I could get a 5% deposit mortgage so I only needed £9,000 plus fees and I’d got that plus a bit on top. I had £12,000 by January this year.
Just as covid hit the UK I tried to get a mortgage with a 5% deposit thinking it would be nice to have money in the bank as I didn’t know what was happening with coronavirus.
But my mortgage advisor said I now needed 10% because the majority of 5% mortgages had been removed by the banks.
The monthly payments were going to be £730 which is similar to what I paid in rent.
When we went into lockdown I had no work. I panicked and took out a £5,000 personal loan just to be on the safe side in case I needed it.
I didn’t want to touch my savings because I wanted everything for my deposit.
During lockdown I wasn’t spending any money apart from rent and bills and I made my food last a long time. I was saving leftovers for the next meals and not buying anything.
I then got the self-employment grant from the government and got the full amount of £7,500 across three months. By the end of lockdown I had a 10% deposit of £18,000.
Then the price of the mortgage went up to £810 a month which over five years would mean paying £9,000 in interest alone.
So I decided I needed to get a 15% deposit together to get the monthly payments down.
As soon as lockdown ended I was working weekends and evenings to get the £26,250 deposit and £1,500 for fees.
By that point I had found the house which was £175,000, just below the maximum amount I could borrow. I needed about £9,000 extra to get to 15%.
Working an extra weekend meant I would earn £400 after tax and I would be making an extra £150 from working a few evenings during the week.
I only worked every other week for seven days as I have my daughter come and stay for the weekend every other weekend, but on several occasions I had to work on a Saturday which was heartbreaking.
I miss my daughter loads and seeing her on weekends is the highlight of my week, but my son would take her out for the day.
I would make them a picnic and they would go off for a walk while I went to work.
That was probably the hardest part of it. Leaving for work at 6.30am in the morning and not getting in till 8.30pm some days would have its toll on me too.
I also sold everything that wasn’t nailed down. I literally went through every cupboard and drawer in my house.
I sold a classic iPod for £100, a kayak, a dumbbell set, shoes, clothes, jewellery, toys and books.
I sold them through local Facebook buy and sell groups. My biggest sale was my Watt bike, I got £900 for that. I made £2,000 selling things which covered my conveyancing fees.
Selling bits and bobs on Facebook was actually quite fun and it’s surprising how much stuff you accumulate over the years you don’t actually need and even more surprising at what people will actually buy.
I’ve now got the added bonus that there wasn’t as much stuff to pack and take with me.
I got the mortgage literally within a few pounds and I now have absolutely nothing in my savings.
Did you have any problems with the mortgage?
Because I hadn’t been in work for so many months due to lockdown the bank was a bit worried about lending me the money.
When my mortgage application went through I had only been back at work for a week. I had to produce bank statements to show I was being paid again so that delayed the process for two weeks.
What help is out there for first-time buyers?
GETTING on the property ladder can feel like a daunting task but there are schemes out there to help first-time buyers have their own home.
Help to Buy Isa – It’s a tax-free savings account where for every £200 you save, the Government will add an extra £50. But there’s a maximum limit of £3,000 which is paid to your solicitor when you move. These accounts have now closed to new applicants but those who already hold one have until November 2029 to use it.
Help to Buy equity loan – The Government will lend you up to 20% of the home’s value – or 40% in London – after you’ve put down a 5% deposit. The loan is on top of a normal mortgage but it can only be used to buy a new build property.
Lifetime Isa – This is another Government scheme that gives anyone aged 18 to 39 the chance to save tax-free and get a bonus of up to £32,000 towards their first home. You can save up to £4,000 a year and the Government will add 25% on top.
Shared ownership – Co-owning with a housing association means you can buy a part of the property and pay rent on the remaining amount. You can buy anything from 25% to 75% of the property but you’re restricted to specific ones.
“First dibs” in London – London Mayor Sadiq Khan is working on a scheme that will restrict sales of all new-build homes in the capital up to £350,000 to UK buyers for three months before any overseas marketing can take place.
Starter Home Initiative – A Government scheme that will see 200,000 new-build homes in England sold to first-time buyers with a 20% discount by 2020. To receive updates on the progress of these homes you can register your interest on the Starter Homes website.
I also had a nightmare with communication with the estate agents and the seller.
I said I would need a month’s notice so I could hand my notice in on my rented property but they suddenly phoned me and said it all had to be completed by the end of the next week.
So there has been an overlap between leaving my rented property and moving in but at least there is no rush and I can move my stuff over gradually.
Do you have plans to redecorate?
I have two children. My 18-year-old son lives with me and will have the second bedroom and my 10-year-old daughter comes on weekends.
My current rented house only has two bedrooms and when she stays she has my room and I sleep on a sofa bed in the living room.
I couldn’t afford a three bedroom house but with this one I am going to convert the family bathroom into a bedroom and we can all use the ensuite which has a shower.
To turn it around is going to take me half a day because I’m a builder and will only cost a few hundred pounds.
I am just going to board it and put down a carpet. I can turn it back into a bathroom quite easily if I ever decide to sell.
It will just have a cabin bed and a desk and drawers. It has a sloping roof and a velux window so it is nice and light. My daughter is looking forward to having her own room.
How did you afford to furnish the property?
The house I rented was unfurnished so I already have everything – two beds, settee, dining table, white goods.
I might buy a new corner sofa but that’s it.
What was it like to finally get the keys?
Walking in for the first time was really quite emotional. It was somewhere that was finally mine and for the kids, ours forever.
What is your advice to other first time buyers?
Get on the ladder as quickly and early as you can. Save as much as you can, when you can.
It’s getting more and more difficult to buy a home.
Starting a car cleaning subscription business helped Leanne Holder and Jacob Leaver buy their £180,000 three-bed first home earlier this year.
Meanwhile, a first-time buyer tells us how being made redundant helped her boost the deposit for a £342k one-bed first home.
Plus, a hard-working doctor joined a peer to peer savings scheme to help her buy her £335k two-bed first home – but it didn’t come without risks.
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